life Parenting Reading

5 on a Thursday . . .

March 3, 2022

1- I really liked this post from The Frugal Girl yesterday: Being easily pleased is a superpower.

It is a superpower, yet it is not always easily accessible. However, I 100% agree it is a power worth cultivating.

2- I also enjoyed (and needed) this episode of the Productive Woman: Serenity in Stressful Times

3- I revamped my 2022 book list to remove pressure. This might seem silly, but it made me feel better. I haven’t been reading as much this year, and instead of being annoyed about that . . . I can just accept that perhaps 2022 will be a lighter reading year. Or maybe it won’t, but either way is okay. No one is grading me on my reading habits!

So instead of a relatively fixed list for the year (which served me in 2020-2021!), I have 3 sections: Read, Currently Reading, and Future Ideas. This will also help me migrate titles that I still want to read to future years, while having plenty of fodder for future library holds lists.

Also, I’m back to reading on paper after a brief flirtation with the kindle. For whatever reason, I just really really prefer physical books, even if I have to use a book light at night. Swiping just is not the same as page turning for me!

currently reading

4- Bedtime. Amy asked (in a genuine way) in the comments: Why is bedtime so hard? Honestly to some extent I think it is because by that in the day, everyone is tired — including me. I am often doing the routine solo or worse, from my vantage point – it gets interrupted mid-routine by Josh arriving home.

I was getting into a bad pattern of letting the kids watch TV and then being too tired/lazy to stop them to begin the bedtime process (or maybe hoping Josh would come home and take over). Then, at 8 or 8:15 I would begin dragging them upstairs and no one was in the mood to do anything like brush teeth or walk upstairs and the whole thing was like pulling teeth.

Last night I started promptly at 7:30 and the process was over by 8:10. Annabel actually put herself to bed early to wake early and finish homework (!), and the other 2 were reasonable and not too terribly hyper (and yes, I am sure ADHD plays a role in what often makes the routine stressful). We read 2 books and lights were off by 8; I stayed in then room until 8:10 (deal made with one kid) and everyone did fine. Josh was not home and I am really thinking this is a task better ‘vertically managed’ in its entirety by one parent (though certainly that parent could vary by night).

PS: Yes, our screen free month includes no TV. I am not planning for this to be permanent but we just need a reset. I am not that excited for this weekend, but we will survive and it will be interesting if nothing else.

5- MakseLife. The planner I ordered (for review . . . and to play with . . .) arrived and I am IMPRESSED, I have to say. The paper, the layout, the details – nice job, MakseLife (note: I am not an affiliate, just ordered it on my own to try). Tomorrow at 1 pm EST they are having an “imperfect” sale with a 40% discount if you are interested in trying their products. The price points are generally fairly high and I don’t see many sales, so this is a nice opportunity to give them a try if you are interested!


  • Reply Lindsey March 3, 2022 at 6:41 am

    I’m fascinated by no screens. How did your kids react? Mine had a half day but we were working from home so there was… embarrassing amount of screens despite it being a beautiful day.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 3, 2022 at 7:17 am

      they are not thrilled, but seem to understand that arguing is futile. i guess i laid down the gauntlet . . .and i did promise it was temporary, so i’m trying to get them to see it as a challenge.

  • Reply Amy March 3, 2022 at 6:53 am

    I too am impressed you guys are going screen free! We’re not a high tech family (my kids don’t have their own devices, no Nintendo etc) but they have a dedication to 1. Minecraft and 2. televised sports. But I think with your move it will work well as a reset. They’ll do great. You could consider audiobooks if they need downtime — mine have always liked listening to audiobooks while playing with legos etc.

    And thanks for taking my bedtime question in the spirit it was intended (i.e. not smug) — the arrival of Josh while you’re in the middle of getting the kids to bed would absolutely derail everything! Of course that’s hard, especially if it gets them all wound up again. I do think being consistent and starting early will really help, though, as well as keeping the routine short and to-the-point. Hopefully once you move you can phase out having to sit in anyone’s room.

    Also I think you’re doing the right thing with your book list. Taking pressure off yourself where you can is definitely going to improve the quality of your life and restore joy into the things you’re supposed to do for pleasure.

    • Reply Coree March 3, 2022 at 8:22 am

      Yeah, I’ve taken the long route home from the bus stop to avoid walking in in the middle of bedtime and derailing the process. When I get home at 8 from work travel, my husband won’t say I’m coming home because my son will try and wait up for me. I’m just a pleasant surprise when he runs in for a cuddle with dad in the AM and his look of delight is an added bonus.

    • Reply Marie March 3, 2022 at 10:49 am

      I also wondered if you could have a short window of time where you ask Josh to not arrive home during — it sounds like the disruption (and uncertainty) in bedtime routine is a source of stress. Maybe there’s something he could do if he would arrive home during that window… go for a short walk, stop by the library or bookstore, run a quick errand, finish up a few charts at work? Might not work for you guys, but could be worth a try!

  • Reply Gwinne March 3, 2022 at 7:27 am

    Sarah, it’s not perfect, but my ADHD kid’s bedtime routine has improved substantially with a timeline written down That he can see. Clean up 730, snack 745, upstairs to read at 8, etc. He needs a looong wind down time. Doesn’t usually fall asleep until 930 or even 10. Our biggest struggle is beginning process when he really is locked in to playing

    • Reply Taryn March 3, 2022 at 3:38 pm

      Our daughter too has ADHD and no matter what time she was in bed she would stay awake for 1+ hour playing in her room, art, “school” with her dolls, etc. We now give her a cbd gummie with melotonin at dinner and it’s amazing. She goes into her bed to read at 8 and is now asleep within 10-15 minutes. She is getting at least another hour of sleep each night and is a different kid.

      • Reply Amy March 3, 2022 at 5:44 pm

        We did that with our more intense child when it took him hours to fall asleep at night and it was a game changer. Now he’s a year round swimmer (swims ~90 min a day multiple times a week) — he needs the intense physical exercise. I like to say we just need to treat him like a Rhodesian Ridgeback — lots and lots and lots of exercise.

  • Reply Grateful Kae March 3, 2022 at 8:01 am

    Will be interested to hear how no screens at ALL goes!! Maybe just give yourself permission to cut it short IF you feel like your sanity needs it! Sounds like it’s been a rough time lately, so I just hope that adding another potentially complicated layer, especially during a move when you really need kids “out of your hair”, doesn’t end up ultimately making things harder for you.

    • Reply Elisabeth March 3, 2022 at 10:24 am

      Great point, @Kae. I’ve done some of these hard resets before and they can end up being a big burden if I force myself to keep going the entire time I’ve planned. Though I understand it can be hard to back-pedal if you’ve specified to the kids there will be NO screens all of March.

      All the best with this. I’m in awe. Personally wouldn’t feel up to doing this right now with seemingly endless snow days, but I do love the idea!

      Stick with it while it works, but let it go when it becomes a burden.

  • Reply Rachel March 3, 2022 at 9:00 am

    I start the entire process at 6 pm to have my 3 and 5 year old in bath by 730. They brush teeth, take baths, play in bath, read books, and in bed at 730. I do it solo about 75% of the time too. I think like someone said consistency and much more time than you think you need is key. Understand this might not be applicable for older kids.

  • Reply Margaret March 3, 2022 at 9:04 am

    A few times a year I calculate my reading pace to give me a sense of how much I’m reading. For example 10 books read/62 ( current day of year)=.161, multiply that by 365 and it tells me I’m on track to read 58 books this year. It’s a rough estimate but helps me realize that even if I’m not reading a lot it adds up. Yes, I do realize this is completely weird. I also do it for my running miles every quarter.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns March 3, 2022 at 9:24 am

    I think it was a good call to abandon a reading list. That can make it feel like another to do/something to follow. I am an avid reader and don’t really plan out my reading much. I nearly exclusively read on my kindle and get books from the library, so what I read is dictated by what is available. I can only have 15 books on hold at a time, so I will cancel/adjust my holds if I want to swap something out. I have a spreadsheet with TBR books so I can keep track of what I’ve heard about/who suggested it. That has helped me curate my reading but has kept it from being another ‘chore’!

    I am glad bedtime went better last night! Having a good bedtime makes a huge difference in how I feel at the end of the day. Bedtime has been easy this week because our son is sick but that’s obviously not a good reason for it to have gone smoothly. But the baby has been up more than usual because of the fevers from his adenovirus. So it’s been a total crap week, and this is day 4 of both kids being home with us trying to work. But it looks like they can go back to school tomorrow. Woo hoo.

    I’ll be curious to hear how no screens works for you guys and how long it lasts!! It sounds like the kids have handled it well so far. It helps that you are in your ‘nice weather season’ in FL so have lots of outdoor options for the weekends. We are on the other end of the spectrum here in MN so no screens/tv would be really tough… In the summer it would be so much more manageable as we can be outside a ton and that is better for everyone!

  • Reply Natka March 3, 2022 at 9:54 am

    Good luck with the screen-free month!

    Some kids are much better at entertaining themselves than others. Some kids handle boredom badly. I suspect it’s a skill that can be developed – just like learning perseverance – the skill of what to do when there is nothing to do (and all of a sudden you are at the mercy of your thoughts, fears, insecurities). The reason I am saying this – whatever parenting struggles we are all facing at times (difficulties at bed time, struggles to get kids off their devices, etc, etc) – may have more to do with specific kids personalities and less with our parenting styles (and some kids require us to learn some super-parenting skills).

    Here are our family “No Screen” activities:

    * Audiobooks (like someone already mentioned)
    * Kids set up a giant toy city (ie, with legos, calico critters, etc). In our family, only 1 kid actually then plays with the stuff, but all like to organize/build/set things up.
    * Forts (inside and outside)
    * Time with parents (reading, baking, board games, puzzles)
    * Ask kids to set up a “treasure hunt” for the parents – and tell them that it should be difficult (and then fail at solving at least some of the clues and ask kids to give you hints)! Or the older kids can do this for younger kids.
    * Have friends over
    * Movie-making with an old camcorder (using legos… or acting things out themselves). This is not 100% electronics-free, but requires planning, cooperation, patience…
    * Make a show or a play for the grown-ups (plan, practice, and perform!)

    I have 3 kids who are a little older than yours, but have a similar age spread. They are 13, 11, and 8 now. We have done the no-screen thing for kids (not for a month… but for a couple of weeks), and we used to do total off-the-grid, no-screen family days (I wasn’t using my cell phone, or computer, or TV – it was hard but fun).

    You will be fine without screens as long as you are absolutely certain that’s the right thing to do – expect them to test you, especially the first few days (kids will smell weakness…. they will be able to sense if you want to give in and they will up the pressure… they can also tell when “resistance is futile”).

    • Reply Amy March 3, 2022 at 9:59 am

      Some really good points here about kids’ personalities — one of my kids is fine entertaining herself while the other has always struggled. (Thankfully, this child can now read.) This same child would literally lie in front of the TV all day long if I allowed it, while the other wanders off after a while. I am a big fan of unstructured play in childhood but that is more of a learned skill for some kids than for others.

  • Reply KDR March 3, 2022 at 9:59 am

    I just downloaded Wintering bc of your suggestion and I love it so far. And today’s post reminded me I wanted to listen to Matrix (I get sleepy when I read read so for more literature type books it’s better for me to listen).

    I also was wondering if it would help to have a clock or alarm that goes off at 7:30 in the living room/where the family hangs out post dinner? I think this has come up before but it would take the responsibility and blame off you. And as someone above pointed out, the consistent and precise time might help with the ADHD.

    I also wonder if you and Josh could work something out where if he can’t be home by 7:30 he doesn’t come home until 8:30 so as not to disrupt bedtime.

  • Reply Meg March 3, 2022 at 10:07 am

    Sarah, your nighttime struggles are 100% mirrored in our house (8 and 10 yr old). It’s been brutal lately, and seems far worse when both parents are there. We cut out tv and mindless youtube videos and only allow a bit of time on the Fires for games.

    I’m trying to do some of the same things in new ways like “let’s read while you’re in the bathtub” or reading on the sofa in the living room all three of us cuddled up together. Or a card game in their room before we read, a cup of tea. It’s the closeness I think they need…and me too, to be honest.

    If I can psyche myself up into going into it with the expectation that it’s going to take a while and that boundary testing is a developmental milestone (Hah!) I’m a lot better off. The times I’m at my worst are when I’ve JUST put down my phone and then try to insert myself into “get into the bath, get your teeth brushed.” I need to plan for the slide into bedtime, not just an abrupt “Ok, let’s go.”

    I truly cannot imagine wrangling three and I think you are missing perhaps that you ARE superpowered but it’s just reallllllly hard.

  • Reply Sara March 3, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    So interesting that several people mentioned that bedtime is harder with two parents! I have found the same and figured it was because my husband and I were not communicating well, etc.

    There are multiple tasks that need to get done and agree a “vertical” approach may work best unless roles are super clear.

    My husband unexpectedly had a work issue during dinner and bedtime and I was 100% on my own, but honestly, it went so smoothly – much better than our usual nights! So, something to consider 🙂

    We also aim for an 8pm bedtime (at the latest). The older child can read in bed (in the dark on his Kindle or with a night light) but they are in bed. The younger one crashes but the older one will come out of his room a couple times to say “hi”. I agree starting earlier is always helpful! But, sometimes easier said than done.

  • Reply Nikki March 3, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    Ah bedtime! I am also a morning person parent who is just too tired to be a superstar at bedtime in the evening. I rock my one year old to sleep (not a good sign for her future bedtime skills, my older too were definitely going into the crib awake at this age) before doing bedtime for my 4 & 6 year old so then I’m even more tired and definitely a couple of times a week just lay on their bed and scroll while they watch a few minutes of ipad. That’s not optimal though. Fortunately, while I do not like pretend play, I really do love reading out loud to them so finding really fun books helps motivate me, and then I also will make an awesome hot tea or have some other sort of fun refreshing drink like a green juice or a ginger beer or kombucha. The funny thing is that I will legitimately doze off while reading to them and they’ll elbow me to wake me up, haha. When that starts happening we always decide that it’s the last chapter. Since they visually see me nodding off, they’re usually pretty cooperative after that. Bedtime is 8:15, my 6 year old falls asleep immediately (kindergarten + aftercare is exhausting!) but my four year old still naps at preschool and is famous for popping up downstairs around 9:45. I’m usually headed to bed by then. My husband is super chill about this and lets her hang out with him for a few minutes and then brings her back up to her bed. He’s a night owl, thank goodness. I think I’ve chimed in on bedtime posts in the past, always helpful to hear what works for others and imagining how we can tweak the routine, thanks for starting the conversation again.

  • Reply JMH March 3, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    Another screen time idea that works great for our family to lose the screen time habit, based on Laura Vanderkam’s idea that 3 times a week is a habit. We do kid screen time only 1 or 2 days a week and one of those days is unlimited screen time (cleaning day, so all kid chores have to be done first.) This change from daily screen time to 1-2 days worked wonders. I’m thinking that I should limit my own screen time in a similar way!

    • Reply Amy March 3, 2022 at 5:47 pm

      That’s a really interesting take! I’m going to think more about this.

    • Reply Brenda March 6, 2022 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you for this idea! Yesterday we started our trial run with one day of unlimited screen time, one movie night, and no other screen time at home during the week. This will cut back on many pain points, most notably the 10 year old jumping into the car after school each day and asking about screens! I wouldn’t have thought of this idea on my own, so thanks again!

  • Reply Sarah March 3, 2022 at 6:23 pm

    My kids only get tv on weekends for 2 hours, both days, after lunch. They look forward to it all week and it gives us parents a break to read, clean, grade papers, meal plan, etc. I used to allow more TV but it does seem to affect behavior. This is a compromise that seems to work well for us. I don’t know if *I* could handle life with no tv whatsoever 🤣

  • Reply Jen March 4, 2022 at 5:33 am

    I think that limiting/reducing screen time is one of those things that can be quite painful from ages 3-6 but then you really see dividends (mine are 10 and 7). We were in Montessori for Primary and the beginning of Elementary and I think seeing how well the philosophy worked really influenced our mindset around screens and boredom.. But both parents have to be really committed because it can feel like there is no break unless the kids are out of the house or sleeping.

    We have always been a low screen time family (1 hour of minecraft saturday and sunday morning, family movie night on friday and before school for 5 min while I’m brushing their hair). It’s easy for me to stay motivated because I really dislike most kids shows. I find that the kids in the shows are either very spoiled or bratty.

    That being said, my sister has no such limits and her kids are overall wonderful. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts at the end of the experiment!

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